A Deep Dive Into the Airbnb Interview Process

Anthony PellegrinoAnthony PellegrinoLast updated

The great company culture, generous benefits, and exciting mission at Airbnb make it one of the best and most well-rated companies to work for.

In recent years, Airbnb has transformed from a fledgling startup to one of the world's biggest tech companies.

The company not only survived the widespread collapse of the travel and hospitality industries that occurred during the COVID-19 Pandemic but also emerged as an outstanding example of crisis leadership.

The reason for this outstanding success in the face of great uncertainty can be attributed to Airbnb’s commitment to quality experiences for hosts, customers, and employees.

These qualities and core values are something you’ll be expected to uphold as a member of the Airbnb team.

The four defining core values of Airbnb are:

- Champion the mission: We’re united with our community to create a world where anyone can belong.
- Be a Host: We’re caring, open, and encouraging to everyone we work with.
- Embrace the Adventure: We’re driven by curiosity, optimism, and the belief that every person can grow.
- Be a "Cereal" Entrepreneur: We’re determined and creative in transforming our bold ambitions into reality.

Trivia: Airbnb got out of debt early in their journey by selling Obama-themed cereal boxes.

The core engineering culture at Airbnb is all about making your mark and owning your impact.

To that end, the company provides engineers with plenty of support, tools and structure to help them solve problems, automate as many solutions as possible, and maximize value.

“I met lots of really smart people.” a recent interviewee told us. “Conversations skewed mostly technical, surprisingly. People didn’t want to talk about travel as much as I’d guessed.”

Read on to learn everything you need to know about the Airbnb hiring process and how to ace your interview.

Step 1: Initial Phone Call(s) Screen

First, a recruiter will reach out to you from Airbnb.

The screening call takes approximately 30 minutes. It will be very general. The screening call will cover significant and relevant experience from your resume and answer introductory behavioral questions.

Sample Question: You may be asked a behavioral question like, "Tell me about a time you made a mistake" or "How do you hire a team?

The recruiter will also provide you with some additional information about the role, team, etc.

It doesn’t take much preparation to pass the initial phone screening.

Tip: Review your resume, prepare some questions based on the job description at Airbnb, and learn about Airbnb’s culture.

Step 2: Technical or Peer Phone Screens

If you make it through the recruiter call, you'll next be invited to a technical interview or additional phone screen.

Technical Airbnb interviews

If you’re interviewing for a technical role, the technical screen with be a coding challenge. This round will take roughly 45 minutes. You’ll be expected to answer medium to hard Leetcode questions.

Many candidates report these coding questions are tough. Not that the technical concepts are uncommon. But that you have to provide a working answer within a single 45-minute interview.

Note: Pseudocode is not allowed in Airbnb interviews. Prepare well so that your code passes the test cases.

Review the basics of coding challenges ahead of your interview.

Non-technical Airbnb interviews

If you’re interviewing for a non-technical role, such as a product management position, for instance, your phone screens will obviously be different.

You’ll likely need to speak with both a hiring manager, who will evaluate your domain knowledge, and with a peer.

The peer will be someone currently in the role you’re applying to. They will work closely alongside you if you get hired.

This peer screen assesses how you perform within a team setting. Again, you will be asked to describe previous work experiences.

Instead of focusing on your domain expertise, as the hiring manager will, your soft skills and culture fit will be the focus.

How you're evaluated: Your ability to work under pressure, your collaborative skills, and your capacity to succeed in cross-functional teams will be highlighted.

Step 3: Onsite Interviews

Like the previous round, onsite interviews are rigorous and challenging at Airbnb.

If you’re applying for a technical position, expect five rounds of interviews. Each one hour is about an hour long and will focus on data structures & algorithms, system design, and behavioral/cultural questions.

While you’re visiting the Airbnb offices for your in-person interview, you’ll have the chance to have lunch with a current employee at the company.

Once your onsite interviews are complete, you will likely hear back with the hiring decision within a week.

Let’s take a closer look at the types of interview questions you should be prepared to answer during your Airbnb onsite interviews, along with some sample Airbnb interview questions.

Coding Interviews and Questions (1-2 rounds):

Technical candidates, such as software engineers, will need to complete a coding challenge or two during their onsite. Expect these coding rounds to be like the ones you completed earlier in the interview process (if not a bit more difficult).

Review fundamental coding interview concepts with Exponent's software engineering interview course. 

At Airbnb, the onsite coding questions will typically focus on data structures & algorithms, such as the ones below

Sample coding interview questions from Airbnb:

System Design Interviews and Questions (1-2 rounds)

Sample system design interview questions at Airbnb:

- Search: Design Airbnb Search
- Machine Learning: Design a landmark recognition system
- Rate Limiting: Design a rate limiter
- Web Crawling: Design a web crawler

Data structures & algorithms won’t be the only technical questions you’ll need to field during your Airbnb interviews.

Candidates also need to be prepared to answer system design questions, especially for roles such as engineering manager.

This interview round is one of the most consequential of the entire Airbnb interview process. It could ultimately be the make or break for your hiring decision.

Review and study system design principles and fundamentals and practice system design interviews.

Answering system design interview questions rarely involves coding, so you should instead be prepared to talk about architectural and design tradeoffs.

Behavioral Interviews (2-3 rounds):

Sample behavioral interview questions at Airbnb:

- Leadership: Tell me about a decision you made based on your instincts. (View answer)
- Teamwork: Tell me about a time when you worked on a project with a tight deadline. (View answer)
- Leadership: What product that you led are you most proud of, and why?
- Culture fit: Describe a situation when you went above and beyond your job description. (View answer)
Culture fit: Why do you want to work at Airbnb? (View answer)

Several of your onsite interview rounds will be dedicated to behavioral questions.

While it’s impossible to predict exactly what behavioral questions you’ll be asked, it’s safe to assume they will all, more or less, center around how you and your professional experience relate to or personify Airbnb’s core values.

Step 4: Hiring Decision

Abstract by Dmitry Nikulnikov

An Airbnb Engineering Manager had this to say about the hiring decision process:

“We changed how we make hiring decisions in 2020. At Airbnb, before, it was all based on the interview panel.

The [interview] panel would come to a consensus with guidance from the recruiter. And the recruiter would kind of make the group lean one way or another, depending on how they saw the general group feeling. But it was very consensus driven.

In 2020, we changed it so that the hiring manager actually makes the final decision.

This person could have gotten 2 No’s, but the hiring manager still looks at the packet, and if they really want this person, they can actually bring them on.

But all the feedback still goes to a leveling committee that decides what level this person is brought on.

The hiring manager makes the final decision on whether or not they’re hired.”

What’s Unique about Airbnb’s Interview Process?

Abstract by Oleg Shcherba

Each company will have its own interview style and hiring processes. However, here are some notably unique things about Airbnb:

Significant Emphasis on Culture Fit

Airbnb is passionate about its culture and will only offer a job to those who believe in it.

So, even if you’re applying for a technical role, you should still expect non-technical and culture interview rounds. These, of course, will focus on your work history, work style, and how you collaborate with others.

These behavioral interview rounds are very important at a company like Airbnb that places a huge emphasis on culture fit, so be sure to study and practice answering them beforehand (you can find some examples above or find additional ones here).

Not only that, it’d be wise to know the company’s core values like the back of your hand and contemplate how your professional experience and personal character reflect them.

The Interview Process Is Typically Fast and Easy

Many previous candidates at Airbnb have stated that upon acing their phone interviews or recruiter screens, they were subsequently invited to an on-site interview round within just a few hours.

Of course, this is a really delightful change of pace, in which several interview processes at modern tech companies can take weeks or even months to fully complete.

How to Prepare For Your Airbnb Interview Successfully

Update Your Resume Before Applying

How to Write the Perfect Product Manager Resume

Before you send your job application to the recruiters of Airbnb, be sure to give your resume an update.

While, yes, you should ensure all your information is correct and up to date, that’s just the basics. It’s always an excellent idea to target the specific job description of the role you’re applying to directly. Scan the job posting for important keywords and skills and include them in your resume wherever applicable.

This will do two things for you: First and foremost, it’ll undoubtedly improve your chances of a recruiter deciding your application is relevant and offering you a chance to interview.

Second, it’ll help your application successfully pass the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) at Airbnb, the automated software tools used to scan resumes for relevant keywords before passing them along to human recruiters.

Get an Employee Referral

How to Get an Airbnb Job Referral

It wasn’t all that long ago when Airbnb was just the next hot startup in Silicon Valley. Yet, nearly 15 years later, Airbnb is a tech giant with over 6,000 employees.

Given this scale, the competition for open roles at the company can be intense. Airbnb itself claims it reviews over 15,000 job applications every single month.

So, how do you get your foot in the door and standout amongst the crowd?

Well, a great way to get noticed is to ask an employee for a referral.

As a matter of fact, according to data collected by Glassdoor, 17% of Airbnb candidates invited to an interview received an employee referral beforehand.

Of course, finding an Airbnb employee to refer you may seem like an equally elusive task as getting an interview.

However, you can easily find one using Exponent’s job referral tool or through LinkedIn Search.

Hire an Airbnb Interview Coach

Abstract by Maria Shukshina

Practice makes perfect! The Airbnb interview process is tough. We can’t deny it.

You can make your best impression with the help Exponent interview coaches.

Interview coaches can do many things for you. They’ll:

  • Help with improving and targeting your resume,
  • Customize your coaching session to suit your professional goals and particular needs,
  • Practice mock interviews and provide constructive feedback,
  • Teach you how to negotiate salary and navigate job offers.

The Airbnb interview process can be exceptionally challenging and competitive for some candidates, especially in this economic climate. But an interview coach will give you the best chance possible and provide the best resources for achieving your goal.

More Interview Prep Resources

Abstract by Maria Shukshina

Here at Exponent, we have dozens of different interview resources to help you breeze through your Airbnb interviews:

👨‍🎓 Take one of our comprehensive interview courses

💬 Get prepared with example interview questions

📖 Read through one of our interview guides

👯‍♂️ Practice your behavioral and interviewing skills with our interview practice tool.

Your Exponent membership awaits.

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